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Trial underway in 1979 Ladysmith murder

Trial underway in 1979 Ladysmith murder

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LADYSMITH — A 14-person jury from Douglas County jury began hearing evidence Monday against a Ladysmith man accused of killing a college student nearly 30 years ago.

Prosecutors have said the crime was masterminded by the defendant’s brother, who was then district attorney.

Harry “John’’ Rogers, 56, is charged with first-degree murder in the Aug. 14, 1979, shooting death of 27-year-old Robert Pfeil, Jr., outside Pfeil’s rural Ladysmith home.

According to court records, then-Rusk County District Attorney Robert Rogers recruited three of his brothers as hit men because he feared Pfeil wanted to kill him and his family after deputies killed some of Pfeil’s dogs.

No one was charged in the case until after a grand jury was convened in 2004 and new evidence was found.

Clerk of Courts Renae Baxter said the jury hearing testimony in John Rogers trial was picked last week in Superior because of pretrial publicity in Rusk County. Testimony started Monday in Ladysmith.

Rogers pleaded no contest to first-degree murder in Pfeil’s slaying in March 2006 and was sentenced to life in prison with eligibility for parole in about 10 years.

But a year ago, a judge allowed Rogers to withdraw his no-contest plea, ruling the plea agreement Rogers signed didn’t ensure he understood what he was doing.

Rogers testified during a 2005 hearing that he drove to Pfeil’s home in a van with two of his brothers. While they hid in some woods, he drove up to Pfeil in his driveway, shot him in the head and later buried the gun, he said.

Dale Rogers, 51, of Sheldon, was found guilty of soliciting second-degree murder and served 461 days in jail before being released in May 2006. Michael Rogers, of California, wasn’t charged because of he helped police.

Robert Rogers’ ex-wife, Cherie Barnard, 57, formerly of San Mateo, Calif., was charged with being party to first-degree murder and perjury. But prosecutors dropped those charges in March 2007, telling a judge that John Rogers would no longer testify against her.

Robert Rogers died more than 20 years ago after moving to California.

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